Conservatism cannot survive a libertarian takeover
In Europe, there is a political movement called “Christian Democrat” where they are socially conservative but because they are Christian philosophy based are also wary of unfettered capitalism and its darwinian social order and favor a social welfare state with universal healthcare, etc and are not militaristic (they tend to be patriotic but hate nationalist war fever mongering you find in the European far right). It is a completely logical set of political ideologies. In the USA (maybe because we only have a 2 party system) the “conservative” side had become this amalgamated creature where the logical extension of the different ideologies are not compatible. How can a social Christian conservative also push for limited govt where there is no universal safety net for the poor? How can a Christian conservative be a war hawk? How can a conservative claim they want limited govt but try and get the state to ban abortions, etc.
While you can atomize the right wing in America into many subsets, there were mostly 3 types of American conservative: the religious, the business class, and the cold warriors and then by today we get 2 more, the racist (and they fall under the social conservative) and the libertarian (and they are more aligned with the business class types). A lot of what held the right wing coalition together in the USA was the Cold War. When the Cold War ended we kind of saw this coalition fray. Remember the US congress REFUSED Clinton’s request to go to war in Kosovo and the Republican hawks quickly came up with a way to keep the war going in a legal manner after that stunner. Rep. Ron Paul actually took the Clinton Executive branch to court on the basis that congress denied the president’s war request and the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction and that congress could easily end the war it voted against by defunding it. In the end we had the Republican congress that refused to authorize the war in Kosovo then voted to fund the war - again the old Military Industrial Complex war hawks in the GOP went into action and “saved the day” for the war but that was the first sign of their decline.
George W. Bush actually ran a campaign against Gore that while still somewhat Hawkish promised to be less interventionist in an attempt to appease these now split coalitions with the GOP (and we have to admit less military interventionism has appeal to independent and Democrat voters also).
Then along came 9/11. The events of 9/11 allowed the various conservative factions to unite again with al-Qaeda being the bonding agent that replaced the USSR. But unlike the USSR, al-Qaeda was pretty weak glue. The USSR and communism was an existential threat to the existence of the USA and the world as we knew it. Sadly, for the right wing coalition, al-Qaeda and radical Islam were scary for a while but they were weak stuff and all the Cold War like debt we went into to fight this flea made the threat in comparison to the expense seem silly and stupid.
I think for a while to the Republicans, Israel and the Arabs had become the stand in for the Cold War enemies of old. Israel was the stand in for Western Europe and the Arabs/Iranians were the stand ins for the Warsaw Pact and that kind of held the foreign policy hawks and the social religious conservatives on the same side (and still does) but the libertarians were having non of that by this point.
In any case, I am fascinated by the GOP fracturing. This is only the start of the show and so far it is the war hawks and the social conservatives that are nervous since they were the backbone of the discredited George Bush Republican coalition.
Conservatism cannot survive a libertarian takeover
By Brad Todd
Published March 15, 2013
For the umpteenth time in as many years this weekend, a member of the Paul family will win the presidential straw poll in a runaway at the Conservative Political Action Conference. But this time, the winner will not be cranky, eccentric Rep. Ron Paul, but his more politically capable son Sen. Rand Paul – who seeks to make a change instead of merely in making a point.
For three decades, the locus of the Republican Party family debate has been over social issues. Today, there is no such fight – and that’s the bad news for all of us social and foreign policy conservatives.
The central introspection for the GOP today is whether it will be a party that includes libertarians or a party dominated by them.
The activists who power the elevation of Sen. Paul and his ilk are corporately much less interested in the pro-life, pro-family agenda that drove the conservative movement for years, and openly hostile to the muscular foreign policy that has differentiated Republicans from Democrats since the Age of Aquarius.
Libertarian-leaning bloggers routinely lambast full-spectrum conservatives as “pro-life statists” – with one term a slur and the other merely a condescending shrug. They’re not motivated by two-thirds of the cause that animated the Reagan coalition.
The genesis of the transformation of the Republican primary electorate is credited to the Tea Party movement that emerged in opposition to President Obama’s first two left-wing years, but the true catalyst came under a different president. It was latent dissatisfaction with George W. Bush’s unwillingness to fight Democrats over spending and his ever-present willingness to fight overseas that really birthed the Tea Party.
The task for social and foreign policy conservatives is to wake up to the new internal competition before it’s too late. Conservatism will always rely on libertarian allies but it cannot survive a libertarian takeover.
Brad Todd is a political strategist. A founding partner of the Republican media, opinion research, and digital agency OnMessage Inc.
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